The last Hunter T7; XL623 nearly ready to leave Woking

A note from Chris Roberts, Chairman:

The Hawker Association now owns the last Hunter T7 built! I thought, therefore, that it was time to tell the full story.

This acquisition fits with our aims to keep alive the spirit and memories of the Hawker aviation companies by publicising their achievements, their people and their products.

XL623 has sat on top of a pole in the centre of Woking for 22 years and is in poor condition, but assisted by Brooklands Museum we will refurbish and preserve the aircraft for the future. We intend to find XL623 a new location in Kingston, as a permanent aviation memorial to a significant part of the City’s and Nation’s heritage.

Some years ago, before the Hawker Association was formed, a group of our colleagues started The Kingston Aviation Heritage Project. The aim was to create an imposing column in the centre of Kingston, sweeping upwards bearing a Hawker Hunter showing the beauty and effectiveness of Kingston fighter aircraft. The plan was sadly abandoned in 2009 for a number of reasons, but mainly because it had become too difficult and too expensive.

Hunter T7 XL623 Supplement


An unexpected opportunity in 2017 has allowed us to revisit that general concept although we will not re-start the original project. We have a new plan using XL623 that although less spectacular has a similar aim, and will cost only 10% of the estimate of the previous project.

In my report for the AGM in April this year I alluded to this project by saying that “….the Association is looking at one or two things that will elevate our heritage awareness within the local community…..”

Forgive the ‘Black Ops’ nature of the information but we did not want the potential availability of this T7 to become common knowledge in the wider aviation community. Other organisations would have wanted it, perhaps leading to some sort of bidding or auction process. It had to be kept confidential until we were sure that we had secured the aircraft.

The Hunter T7 XL623 was installed in Woking outside a space and aviation themed nightclub that eventually ceased trading. Woking Borough Council inherited the aircraft, but by 2017 its appearance, condition and location were causing concern and it was earmarked for disposal. They offered it to Brooklands Museum but with the completion of the Bellman hangar refurbishment project there is no room available for another Hunter. There are two on loan to and in the museum at present, although neither is a two-seater.
There were protracted discussions between the Council, Brooklands and the HA before it was agreed that we would take ownership of the aircraft and manage the renovation and relocation project. Final clarity on ownership was not achieved until mid-July just before XL 623 was moved to Dunsfold where the Rutland Group is providing a storage facility.

As Brooklands will work on the airframe in their new purpose-built aviation heritage skills training centre, costs should be low and manageable. XL623 has been donated so our limited financial resources have not been affected. The fundamental principle that the Committee will operate to is that the project must be self-financing; fund raising must take place before any expenditure is agreed.
If the project becomes impracticable at any stage it can be put on hold or terminated without the Association incurring any financial liability or suffering any loss. If finding a suitable location in Kingston proves to be too difficult there are other potential locations so this project has sufficient merit purely as a preservation exercise. XL623 was the last of 45 Hunter T7s built at Kingston and first flew from Dunsfold in 1959, almost 60 years ago.

Now that the aeroplane is at Dunsfold it is being fully assessed and broken down into manageable pieces for the workshop at Brooklands. Paul Rash is the Committee member who has agreed to manage the restoration in conjunction with Brooklands. We are looking for further assistance with the overall project management and the Committee would like to hear from anyone willing to join us to help.

There are three areas that we need help with:
•    Project Administration
•    Location planning and preparation
•    Fund raising

Forgive me for starting the appeal, here and now, by inviting any members willing to help fund this project to please give generously. Cash or cheques can be passed to any member of the Committee, or posted to myself at the above address.
The Hawker Association is saying that “623 is coming home”. Football did not come home this year, but unlike the England team, we did get our ‘trophy’!